Michael Ostling

in Between the Devil and the Host

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199587902
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731228 | DOI:

Series: The Past & Present Book Series


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Until very recently, the historiography of witchcraft in Poland treated the subject as an object lesson in the dangers of fanaticism, superstition, and feudal oppression; only in the last fifteen years have new studies challenged this view. It is difficult to estimate the number of trials of accused and of executed witches, due to the destruction of archives during World War II. Estimates from the mid-twentieth century are certainly far too high. Minimum figures of 558 executed, out of 1,316 accused in 867 trials, have been established by Małgorzata Pilaszek; a reasonable estimate of executions might be in the range of 2,000. Accused witches were overwhelmingly peasants or commoner townspeople, more than 90 percent were women; many were married and there is no clear pattern related to age.

Keywords: historiography of witchcraft; fanaticism; archives; number of trials; demographics; peasants; women

Chapter.  15650 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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